his ancestral home

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "his ancestral home" means in the following sentences:

It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time. His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home, three months before. The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption — and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 8

After Myrtle was killed and Gatsby was almost certainly dumped by Daisy, Gatsby and Nick had breakfast together in Gatsby's house. Going to the New York City to work, Nick left him a compliment that he was "worth the whole damn bunch put together." And he recalled how his house looked like three months before.

In this part, I could not grasp whether "ancestral" means "archaic" or "in its former shape." (Gatsby dismissed nearly every one of his servants at Daisy's disapproval and his once gorgeous house has become like a "pigsty", according to the grocery boy.)
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Is it not possible to understand ancestral literally? It was the house that his ancestors owned and lived in. It was the family home that got passed down the generations.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Gatsby had very humble origins but worked his way up to great riches by talent and illegal activities. The house was not his ancestral home. I don't know if Gatsby even owned it or just rented it.
    One of the themes of the book is the contrast between the newly rich and the old monied families with generations of history. Gatsby had invented himself, making it seem that he did have such a background and really was one of the old families represented by Tom and Daisy.
    With the failure of his quest to win Daisy's love, nothing is left. Only this huge grand house that could have been somebody's ancestral home, now empty of servants as well as meaning. (At least, a grand holiday home.) So I suggest 'ancestral' is being used ironically.

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear natkretep, boozer and Hermione Golightly,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.
    I am afraid I didn't provide the context as much as it is needed.
    Gatsby was from a very humble background (his parents were unsuccessful farmers in the West) and earned a huge amount of money for the past five years and bought that great mansion in the East. Because his parents lived in the West and his house was in the East, I guess it was not likely that it was literally Gatsby's ancestral house.

    So I guess, as Hermione Golightly suggested, it could be somebody's ancestral home.
    For me it was difficult to see the ironic tone here, but reading your comment, I came to see that calling it ancestral while it is not in fact could serve as an irony.
    Thank you so much again for letting me know. :)
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